Take a look at this Diesel advertisement: ‘Sex sells* (but unfortunately we sell jeans)’. This is just one example of how the media forces pornography into modern culture, in this case as a form of advertisement. Last week, a friend informed me that as TV turns digital in August, extra channels will be added to the network, and this will include pornography channels. An Internet craze that is also available on satellite television has now stuck its filthy mitts into the likes of national television. This exposure is somewhat criminal, and the government should be utterly ashamed of allowing such exploitative material to saturate our culture.
Advertisement and pornography channels are not the only media genres with dangerous content. In England, America, across Europe and even more dominantly so in Asian cultures such as China and Japan, material promoting the exploitation of women is everywhere. Strip bars and ‘gentleman’s’ entertainment clubs, raunchy music videos, newspaper photographs, magazines with pornographic images slapped on the front for any passer-by to stumble upon, it's all backwards. For a country that's so 'politically correct' in its conservatism, this is beyond a joke.
‘If you don’t want to get involved with porn then don’t, it’s up to the individual.’
Well actually, it’s not. Pornography affects everyone. It is no longer a material that can be chosen by the individual to ‘enjoy’ in private. But pornography is extremely evident in the public sector of today’s world, and cannot be avoided even at the greatest efforts. Such material has such a huge part in media representation that it creates an entire narrative of what women are and how they should be treated. The very fact that this material is now allowed onto national television is a huge statement in itself, a statement that says 'look everyone, it's ok to treat women as objects now because it's on TV'. Men everywhere are jumping on the [im]moral bandwagon and women everywhere are feeling the effects.
‘But it’s just porn, it’s not such a big deal.’
Well actually, it is. Men like to erect (excuse the pun) a barrier between fantasy (fictional pornography) and reality. Pornography is indeed a form of representation rather than ‘real-life sex’, but like most developed media adopts the concept of realism, and therefore naturalising such ideas so that this barrier is broken. It might be argued that this realism proves that pornographic media simply holds a mirror to the world in its natural state, but someone is creating these representations and manipulating reality through repeated exposure to such ideals. Such material is the propaganda of a male army, created to brainwash the world constructing a social acceptance of their perverse desires. And it will work. It has worked. The media is the great dictator of social values, a very dangerous tool, and when used in this way causes severe dysfunction. To make matters worse, due to realism creating a sense of naturalisation, this exploitation is becoming a blind ‘normality’. People are failing to question such ideals and are worshipping ‘the media god’.
‘So how exactly does embracing pornographic media affect women on a whole?’
Marquis de Sade famously made the connection between sex and violence. He said, ‘there’s not a woman on earth who would ever have had cause to complain of my services if I’d been sure of being able to kill her afterwards’. The women in pornographic images are dead, both virtually and functionally. Victimised as a piece of meat for the pleasure of the predatory male, these women have no role in the outside world. If Sade was able to kill his women afterward they would only ever be dead, existing only as lifeless objects in the sexual realm with no experience of the outside world. Without the escape from the sex realm to the mortal realm, women would not be able to reflect upon the abusive nature of such victimisation. However we DO have ‘cause to complain’, as some of us are able to reflect, some of us are able to see the true damage. This fiction, the created (fiction from ‘fingere’ = to form) enables fact to be continued into reality. Men objectify women, using them for sex, acting violently toward them, giving them unequal disadvantage in the workplace, as well as administering continued misrepresentation of women in politics and the media.
‘I watch porn and I’ve never hit or raped a woman’
‘I watch porn and I’ve never hit or raped a woman’
This statement is a great example of how [some] men are getting this whole issue completely wrong. Most think this is a battle not worth fighting. One comment I received in discussion of this topic is that ‘watching porn stops rape’. So not only should we accept that men are sexual predators that need to be relieved, but we as women are the ones to provide an alternative method of pleasing them to save ourselves from being raped. We are still being raped every single day, in many ways, ways that are taken for granted. Objectification comes in many shapes and sizes and I am sure the majority of men are unconsciously guilty of it. You may not have raped a woman or physically abused her, but have you ever made a comment such as ‘women are bad drivers’ or criticised their capability in the work place or within education? Have you ever judged a girl for what she is dressed like, slapping on labels such as ‘slut’, ‘slag’ or ‘whore’ upon someone you don’t even know? Have you ever made a suggestive comment to a woman or touched a woman’s body, or expected that a woman is ‘up for it’ because of the way she is dressed? I don’t think I have ever been on a night out without one of my girl friends or myself being ogled at or groped. Women can’t even walk down the street without a man leaning out of a car window and hurling some lecherous comment at her. The problems are more widespread than you thought.
‘But pornographic media can be empowering to women’
Well, if the way a woman empowers herself is through sexual objectification then there is definitely something wrong with the world. It is far more empowering for a woman to work 9 till 5 earnestly sweeping floors than for a woman to sell herself as an object to a man. The women that aren’t being forced into such degrading submission usually only apply for these jobs because they are pressured into thinking that this makes them beautiful. Particularly girls who have low self-esteem and little self-worth due to lack of appreciation of personal qualities and lack of motivation toward them reaching higher goals. This is one way a woman can gain attention from men, and what is perceived to be ‘respect’, although is actually the complete lack of. A common argument is that ‘women get paid for doing this so there’s no issue’. Being paid is exactly what makes them objects. Again due to discouragement in the workplace and throughout education, women are lacking the support and encouragement they need to succeed, and therefore take the easy option of selling their bodies in pornography, strip bars and prostitution. At this point I will point out that not only men are to blame for this societal corruption, but women too are responsible for adhering to such ‘ideals’ and degrading positions, and therefore subjecting women on the whole to such victimisation.
‘It’s too late to change things’
The tragic truth is that pornographic imaging is something that has existed for thousands of years, dating back to the Romans and the Greeks. This is far too often used as an excuse as to why it is acceptable to continue such degrading behaviour; ‘porn isn’t wrong, it’s always been around’. So has the slave trade. But surely if a diseased thinking has been spreading through the generations for so long, this age of revolution is the perfect time to step outside the box of conservative ideas and change things. Think about it (and yes I AM going to play this card), is this really the kind of world we want to bring our children into? It is disturbingly easy for an innocent child to flick over the television channels and find some form of pornographic imaging, or walk around newsagents and supermarkets with parents to glance upon the revealing covers of ‘ladmags’ such as ‘Nuts’ or ‘Zoo’, or even the pages of tabloid newspapers. Not only does it affect children directly, but indirectly. As men are naturalised to embrace certain concepts of women, this is passed not only between friends but also down to their children through primary socialisation in the home. Pornography causing sexual deviance and unequal treatment and expectations of women, often results in damaged relationships, and in some cases can cause parents to break apart and therefore leave an inheritance of disrespect toward women. Problems are then magnified through secondary socialisation from the education system, impact from peers and again the media.
‘So what can I do?’
Ok men, if you’ve come this far then perhaps you’ve realised that you feel a slight pang of revolutionary passion for the fight for equality. After this stage, some men tend to hit a brick wall: ‘There would be a representation of us as impotent and as losers which we cannot risk’. Well ‘man-up’ and risk it. Women need you. The revolution against racism could not have succeeded so well without the white man accepting equality and forming an alliance to end such discrimination and oppression. Challenge the ‘man-made morality which covers up the immorality of women’s oppression, subordination and violation’. Empower the weak and bring them to your level, respect them as equals and exhibit this attitude to the world. Stop watching porn and find a real woman. Love and care for her. Tell a woman she’s smart, acknowledge her potential, be a supporting figure rather than tearing women down all the time. And if you do respect women, do not be ashamed, but make it known throughout your day-to-day life. Chivalry will never go out of fashion.
United we stand! (Which is exactly why we’ve fallen so far…)
Women have died so that we, the women of the future, have the blessing of freedom. And look what we’ve done with that freedom. We’ve been given a voice and a choice, so why do we still choose to be objectified and fail to use our voices? I ask you also to ‘man-up’, to take responsibility as a singular woman and set an example for the nation of women. Do not try to be what other people want you to be. Learn to love yourself, and do not ever feel as though you have to prove yourself to anyone. You do not need to take your clothes off to be beautiful. Look for respect where respect is due, and never underestimate your potential as a human being.
‘In Switzerland, women took the military to court for allowing officers to use photographs of a woman as targets for shooting practice. The reply of the Swiss authorities was that only the particular woman, the model of the photographs, could sue. And she would be unlikely to, added a spokesman, since she had posed in the first place.’
Do not fall into the trap of treating each case singularly. This is a widespread problem and representation has lead to the naturalisation of generalisation. A tiny drop can cause a huge ripple, and every snowflake pleads ‘not-guilty’ in an avalanche. So be a good snowflake. There are always going to be worshippers of ‘the media god’, and there are always going to be people that pull the rope the other way. But the more people that play on the right side of this tug-of-war, the more chance we have of changing things. It’s not impossible. Black and white people share contented lives; racism is dying a well-deserved death. Our next world mission: gender equality. Get on board.
(quotes from ‘The Pornography of Representation’ by Susanne Kappeler)